The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform is proud to recognize Peter Forbes and Lisa Belmarsh of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) as the winners of its first annual Capstone of the Year Award.April 5, 2012- The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform is proud to recognize Peter Forbes and Lisa Belmarsh of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) as the winners of its first annual Capstone of the Year Award.

The award acknowledges the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform Certificate Program team or participant that has made the most significant progress in improving outcomes for crossover youth through their Capstone Project. Peter and Lisa were participants of the 2009 Certificate Program.

Their project aimed to reduce the number of low-risk youth from entering secure detention facilities in Massachusetts through a three pronged approach: reduce the number of low-risk child welfare involved youth from being detained, reduce the length of stay for those that are detained, and improve the practice standard for those that become committed to the DYS as a delinquent.

To accomplish this, Peter and Lisa sought to establish data systems to analyze how child welfare involved youth end up in DYS detention, bridge the gap between DYS and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) staff and leadership, and implement practices aimed at prevention or reduction in length of stay in detention facilities. They also sought to establish a practice standard to guide collaborative efforts between the assigned DCF social workers and DYS case managers of youth that do get committed to DYS and create an automated data interface between the two agencies for the purpose of sharing information for case planning.

Bridging the gap between DYS and DCF allowed them to make significant progress on their goals. Weekly inter-agency meetings have been established to expedite case plans for child welfare involved youth who enter pre-trial detention and weekly and quarterly reports have been developed to allow leadership to see trends and develop strategies for preventing placement in detention in the first place. Peter and Lisa are also working on identifying and implementing alternatives to detention for low-risk youth that can further prevent child welfare involved youth from being detained.

Despite their progress, Peter and Lisa faced a number of challenges since their completion of the Certificate Program. One of the greatest obstacles they faced was the development of efficient data collection tools, data fields, and data systems that would allow them to systematically analyze the various ways that child welfare involved youth become detained by the DYS.

Their commitment to improving outcomes for crossover youth has produced tangible results. The number of child welfare involved youth entering detention in Massachusetts has shown a downward trend since the launching of Peter and Lisa’s Capstone project. The number of child welfare involved youth detained has declined from 326 to 201 individuals over the course of two years.

"Our progress is largely attributable to their diligence and persistent focus on implementing a well thought out strategic plan,” said Bob Wentworth, Assistant Commissioner of DCF in Massachusetts. “Their collegial and collaborative approach in working with DCF in this effort has greatly assisted in breaking down institutional barriers that impede the collective effort of our separate child serving agencies to build a community of practice that is founded on positive youth development principles."

The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform is one of ten research and training centers affiliated with the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. Their mission is to advance a balanced, multi-systems approach to reducing juvenile delinquency that promotes positive child and youth development, while also holding youth accountable. Visit the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform website to learn more about Peter and Lisa’s Capstone Project.